Here’s the clip from the movie Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader: youtube.com/watch?v=9iuetrhn2y0 that we were supposed to watch, but due technical difficulty, Courtney and I had to describe it instead.
How did Eustace the boy respond when Reepicheep the mouse confronted him about stealing the orange? How is this similar to the way we sometimes respond when we’re confronted with our sin?
As Eustace ran away, Reepicheep said to him, “Trying to run away? We’re on a boat, you know.” How is our running from God similar to and different from trying to run away on a boat?
How is the way God responds to our sin similar to and different from the way Reepicheep responds to Eustace’s theft of the orange?
When we’re confronted with our sin, we often try to explain it away or simply run away from God. The problem is that we can’t explain away our sin because it’s a huge deal to God. Also, it’s impossible to run away from God. In fact, God will pursue us—but God doesn’t pursue us to inflict punishment or tell us how horrible we are. God pursues us because he’s a gracious God who has an incredible plan for us that is best discovered and experienced through willing obedience.
Read Jonah 1 (nlt)
1The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”3But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
4But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 6So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.” 7Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. 8“Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?” 9Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 10The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. 11And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” 12“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
13Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 14Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”
15Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him. 17Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah and the large fish—even people who don’t attend church or consider themselves followers of Christ. They understand that a large fish swallowed Jonah and eventually spit him back up on dry land. What most people don’t realize is the powerful message we can find in this account about disobedience and God’s grace and compassion. The story starts out with God telling Jonah to carry a message of God’s judgment to the people of Nineveh, who were doing great evil in the sight of the Lord. Instead of obeying, Jonah took off in the opposite direction. He hopped on a ship bound for Tarshish and attempted to get far away from what God had called him to do.
We see God’s grace and compassion at work in the midst of Jonah’s disobedience and the sin of Nineveh. God had compassion toward the city of Nineveh despite its evil ways and sent the city a prophet to preach a message of repentance so they could be saved. God also extended grace to Jonah throughout the book, even though Jonah initially did everything he could to disobey God’s command.
While most of us won’t experience being swallowed by a large fish and then being spit up on shore three days later, we have all run from God’s plan or commands at one point or another. If we’re followers of Christ, we’ve also experienced God’s grace despite our disobedience. This grace, however, isn’t a license to disobey. It should help us remember that God’s ways are better than our ways and provide motivation for our obedience. God doesn’t extend grace in order to see us run away from him. God extends it so we can come back and follow him.
Let’s spend a few minutes exploring some important truths from this passage about obedience, the consequences of disobedience, and God’s incredible grace.
1. God allows us the choice of obeying or disobeying
First, let me ask: Is this the first time any of you have ever heard the story of Jonah before? [If so, I encourage you to read all four chapters of the book before our next Sunday School on September 9. In fact, I encourage all of you to read it, to be sure you have an accurate understanding, instead of relying on memories of how it was taught in Sunday school or other settings.]
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, but Jonah decided to board a boat in the opposite direction. Why would God give Jonah—or us, for that matter—the freedom to either obey or disobey? Why not force us to obey?
Why do you think Jonah decided to run away and not obey God?
Why is sin a big deal in God’s eyes? Why is sin something that God can’t simply ignore?
Which one feels better, obeying because you have to, or obeying because you want to? Why?
Which one feels better, obeying because of fear or obeying because of love?
God gives us the freedom to decide if we will obey or disobey. This freedom is a demonstration of God’s love; if God truly loved us, and He does, then He wouldn’t force us to obey. God wants us to obey out of genuine love for him. We may have started our relationship with God with a fear of burning in hell forever or eternal separation from Him (Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”; See also Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10), but God wants us to arrive at a higher motivation in our relationship with Him—love (1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”). If we do things because we love Him or those He loves, how might the story be different?
2. Disobedience results in consequences
Why is it a costly decision to ignore God’s truths and calling on our lives?
Why is it so easy for us to trust ourselves more than God at times?
What are some ways we might attempt to minimize our sin?
How does grasping the seriousness of our sin affect our understanding of who God is and how much God loves us?
What does God’s grace toward us reveal about what God wants from our lives? Why didn’t God just leave us alone to suffer the consequences of our sin?
Sin, at its core, is our attempt to be our own god. It is when we break relationship with God and take matters into our own hands. When we sin we are going against everything God created us to be. God is holy, righteous, and pure, and when we sin, we’re actually going against God’s very nature. Part of God’s nature is that He is a God of justice. This means that God can’t take sin lightly. God can’t look at something that deserves punishment and turn a blind eye to it. If God takes our sin this seriously, we must do the same.
How do we see God’s grace at work in Jonah 1:14-17? How can the great fish be seen as evidence of God’s grace toward Jonah?
Why would God spare Jonah when he was totally running away from God?
Our sin deserves an eternal, infinite punishment. God would be perfectly just to condemn our sin with no questions asked. We don’t deserve anything good from God. However, while God is a God of justice, He’s a God of grace as well and extends His grace to us. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God spares us from what we deserve. God doesn’t extend this grace so we can just go on sinning and living rebelliously. God extends it to us to bring us back into a relationship with Him so that we can experience true life through Him and spread His message to our world.
Psalm 1 (nlt)
1Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. 3They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. 4But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. 5They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. 6For the Lord watches over the path but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.
Read Psalm 1. What does this passage tell you about the life of the person who leads a life that honors God and follows God’s truths?
What do these verses tell you about the life of the person who walks in disobedience?
Which type of life results in greater satisfaction and fulfillment, and why?
Many people think of obedience to God as burdensome. The person in this passage finds delight in God’s law. When considered from the proper perspective, why does obedience to God’s ways bring delight rather than oppression?
Think about a Jonah-like time in your life when you knew God wanted you to do something, but you tried to ignore it or maybe even “ran” in the opposite direction. What excuses did you make? How did it turn out?
Think about a time when you knew God wanted you to do or say something and you obeyed without delay. How did it turn out?
For you, what tends to make the difference between times of obedience versus times of disobedience?
What steps can you take to continue growing in your obedience to God?
For Keeps [Memory Verse]
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3 NLT).